Friday, December 14, 2007

Julia Amanda Perry (1924-1979), African American Composer

Julia Amanda Perry was an African American composer in Neoclassical style who was born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1924. Her desire to compose was so strong that when a stroke left her partially paralyzed she taught herself to write with her left hand. She was raised in Akron, Ohio and died there in 1979. Her Prelude for Piano (2:00) has been recorded by Helen Walker-Hill, piano; and Gregory Walker, violin; on the CD Kaleidoscope : Music by African American Women; Leonarda LE 339 (1995). Helen Walker-Hill writes in the liner notes:

“She earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Westminster Choir College and also studied at The Juilliard School and the Berkshire Music Center in Massachusetts. Perry received two Guggenheim Fellowships and spent the 1950s in Europe, studying at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, Italy; with Luigi Dallapicolla in Florence; and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. While in Europe, she organized and conducted a series of concerts for the United States Information Agency. After her return to the U.S.A. In 1959, she taught briefly at Florida A & M College and Atlanta University. In 1971 she suffered a paralytic stroke and was hospitalized for several years, but taught herself to write with her left hand and returned to composing before her death in 1979."

Julia Perry is one of the composers discussed in The Music of Black Americans: A History by Eileen Southern; published 1997 by W.W. Norton & Company. A reference to her style as a composer is found on p. 551:

Her basically neoclassical style was distinctive for an intense lyricism and penchant for contrapuntal textures. She wrote in all the forms: symphonies, operas, concertos, band works, chamber ensembles, piano pieces, and songs. Several of her works were published, and two or three recorded – this, despite the large musical forces demanded by the works. Her best-known compositions were Stabat Mater (1951) for contralto and string orchestra; Homunculus C. F. (1960) for piano, harp, and percussion; Homage to Vivaldi for symphony orchestra; and the opera The Cask of Amontillado, which was first staged at Columbia University in 1954.” offers a dozen sheet music titles by Julia Perry:

A Short Piece for Large Orchestra, A Short Piece for Small Orchestra, Divertimento for Five Winds, Frammenti dalle Lettere di Santa Caterina, Homage to Vivaldi, Homunculus C.F., Pastoral, Piano Concerto in Two Uninterrupted Speeds, Piano Concerto No. 2, Stabat Mater, Symphony No. 4, and The Cask of Amontillado.

Julia+Perry" rel="tag">Julia Perry
classical+music" rel="tag">classical music
Black+Composer" rel="tag">Black Composer
+Composer" rel="tag">Neoclassical Composer
African+American" rel="tag">African American
European+Career" rel="tag">European Career

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